Permission to Request Permit Granted
March 4, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out if we need a building permit. This is in Massachusetts.

We are remodeling our bathroom. This consists of the following:
1.) Replacing the current sink and vanity.
2.) Replacing the flooring.
3.) Replacing the tub, tub drain, and shower head.
4.) Replacing the ceiling light with a heat lamp.
5.) Replacing the current medicine cabinet and lights with different lights.

We are not running any new plumbing or circuits, not are we doing work on any walls.

My wife and her father will be performing most of the work. They are both adamant that a building permit is not necessary and will just be an excuse for the city to raise our taxes and collect fees. I am trying to err on the side of caution but since I am always at work when the building office is open and my wife refuses to go and ask. I've tried calling and emailing the office but that hasn't really helped.
posted by mkb to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It depends on the municipality - city, township, whatever. In ST. louis city, a homeowner can take a test to show basic competence and go permitless on certain small projects.
posted by notsnot at 12:02 PM on March 4, 2010


The answer is generally yes for anything besides painting, but most people would not in your situation.
posted by electroboy at 12:03 PM on March 4, 2010


In NC we get a yearly mailing from the city asking about any improvements or additions that were made to the residence and their approximate value in order to calculate taxes. In this kind of situation, even if you didn't pull a permit, you'd be at least legally, if not ethically obligated to fill out this form with the value of your DIY improvements.
posted by odinsdream at 12:20 PM on March 4, 2010


What electroboy said.

RE: electrical work, if you pull a permit, be aware that Massachusetts has this annoying policy where you don't technically *have* to be an electrician to do electrical work, but there's a box on the building permit for an electrician's license number... and it's pretty much up to how the inspector's feeling on a given day as to whether he gives you grief over not having the work done by a licensed electrician. (At least, that's how a trusted electrician explained it to me.)
posted by usonian at 12:37 PM on March 4, 2010


Nthing that you can check with your city for the letter of the law.

I don't know anyone who would pull a permit for this sort of work, though.
posted by desuetude at 1:14 PM on March 4, 2010


Well... you mght get one for the work, but unless you've decided on having a new planter in the front lawn, you'll definitely need a permit for the disposal of some of the stuff you've mentioned...
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:44 PM on March 4, 2010


I am an engineer with a small municipality (in Oregon). You need a permit for some of the work almost certainly. Mostly the electrical, and a lot of the work you are proposing would not necessarily raise your tax assessment. That being said the reason for permits is not to raise revenues/property taxes(at least here-oregon does have some different laws). Those two departments don't even talk to each other. The purpose of a building permit is to
1. ensure you don't kill yourself and burn your house down and your neighbors house while your at it (this is the big one-protecting public health and safety)
2. ensure that the work is not going to make the house unlivable
3. without a building permit if your house burns down and the insurance company traces it to unpermitted work they ain't paying on it.

that being said if you are competant, go ahead and do it. However some notes:
poorly installed electrical work in a bathroom can be danegerous.
I am not sure that circuitry suitable for a light fixture will support a heat lamp without becomming overloaded.
The electrical work and specifically the heat lamp are the only things I would be getting permitted myself. Get that done first with the permit and then do the rest on at your leisure. If you screw up the rest it is not likely to cause (much) damage or kill you.

My town publishes a list of work that does not require a permit and is available online at our website. So check out the cities/counties website and good luck.
posted by bartonlong at 2:18 PM on March 4, 2010


So I got home to find out that my wife's sister convinced her that we should go to the building department. Thanks.
posted by mkb at 6:36 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


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